September 14, 2023

Fall Proof Your Home in Time for Fall

Falls are the number one cause of injury – including fatal injury – for older adults. Every year, approximately one in four seniors take a tumble; more than 75% of falls happen at home or close by. Around three million elders are treated in the ER due to a fall annually. Despite the numbers, falls are not a normal part of aging. Most importantly, falls can be prevented!

Wherever you call home, evaluate these three areas to reduce your risk of falling.

1. Lighting. Anybody who has stumbled in the middle of the night only to run into a table knows that our most familiar settings can be treacherous minefields in the dark. Research has shown that certain nightlights can help reduce falling (by up to 43%!) without disturbing sleep. So:

  • Make sure that all lights have working lightbulbs; replace any that burn out.
  • Place nightlights that turn on automatically from the bed to the bathroom; if possible, place them low so they are less likely to prevent additional good sleep.
  • For stairways, have access to lighting at both the top and bottom of the stairs; overhead lighting that can be switched on from either place is the best.
  • Ensure there’s a way you can turn a light on if you’re lying in bed.
  • Double-check the lighting outside your front and back doors; you want to see where you’ll be stepping. Motion-sensor lighting is particularly useful, so you don’t have to juggle getting inside with turning on a light

2. Clutter. You don’t have to always keep your home pristine, but you do want to ensure that you aren’t unintentionally creating hazards. A recent review of 22 studies found that decluttering had the most benefit in reducing fall risk by nearly 30%. Take time to:

  • Clear the floor of anything that can impede your path. Books, clothes, and other items should be in their designated space – or at least off the floor.
  • Secure any rugs with no-slip strips. Rugs may add to the decor, but they are tripping hazards when they bunch or move. Better yet, ditch the small or throw rugs.
  • Create easy paths. Rearrange furniture to provide easy ways around, with plenty of space.
  • Clean up any spills on the floor immediately.
  • Carry items all the way into the home. Our entryways usually end up being the dumping ground for mail and packages, shopping, bags, and shoes. Find a new home for each of these items away from the door and off the floor.

3. Reach. Every trip up a ladder or stepstool comes with a risk of falling, especially as we reach outward for something or step back and down. According to recent research, age matters more than height when it comes to injuries; although the elderly fell from lower heights, they had more severe injuries. Make sure to:

  • Organize your kitchen and other cabinets so the items you need and use most frequently are the easiest items to reach. Between your waist and shoulder height is optimal placement.
  • Make showering and bathing easier by adding grab bars; add non-slip rugs as well. Use handrails when going up and down stairs.
  • Remember the three points rule: have three places of contact (like your two feet on the ground and one hand on a rail) when moving.
  • Use a step stool that has a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair in place of a step stool.

One last thing you can do at home to prevent falling: exercise! Activities like tai chi make your legs stronger and lower your chances of falling.

National Falls Prevention week is September 18-22. Get ready for fall by fall-proofing your home.